There are no good choices remaining for dealing with the collapse of Iraq and the ensuing brutality those people will now suffer – particularly the women. Five and one-half years of ineptitude, inaction and incredible naivete by President Barack Obama have brought us to this point. It is fine to declare that this is President George Bush’s war but Mr. Obama campaigned on the assertion that he could resolve the conflict. If this is his resolution, even the die-hard leftist who supported him must be appalled by the human slaughter that is now occurring.
The fascinating thing is that in a sea of bad choices, Mr. Obama is able to find the one choice that is even worse than those bandied about by the world’s political pundits – he wants to negotiate with Iran. But that is vintage Obama – bold talk, no action.
In the first instance, Mr. Obama has been negotiating with Iran since the inception of his presidency with no results. I take that back. Mr. Obama has suspended the one action that was demonstrating some minor results – economic sanctions – in exchange for “new negotiations” relating to Iran nuclear weapons program. But, as everyone but Mr. Obama (and apparently former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton) knew, those “new negotiations” have produced the same results on Iran’s part as all previous negotiations – stall, delay, prevaricate, and continue unimpeded with the development of nuclear weapons.
Secondly, Mr. Obama’s vision of a joint venture with Iran to stop the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) assumes that Iran isn’t already there – they are, including the Revolutionary Guard’s elite fighting force, the Quds. The only thing that the United States can provide to such a “partnership” would be finances and access to our most sophisticated weapons – a result that over the long run will prove to be detrimental to our security and that of our allies in the region.
Third, Mr. Obama seems to lack an understanding of the imperatives present in this escalating violence. This conflict is a continuation and escalation of the conflict between the Shia and the Sunni branches of the Muslim religion. It has been going on for over a thousand years and while it may ebb periodically, the underlying hatred, distrust and barbaric violence is never far from the surface. Iran is the center of the Shia tradition and Saudi Arabia is the center of the Sunni tradition. Each has its own imperative for supporting its religious faction in Iraq.
The inability of the Iraqi military to combat ISIS stems directly from the decision by Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki (a Shia) to purge the country’s military of Sunni and Kurd officers. That decision was supported and encouraged by Iran. It left the Iraqi armed forces without some of its most experienced officers and left Sunni and Kurd troops without leaders or loyalty.
ISIS is a Sunni faction and an outgrowth of al-Qaida which in turn was funded in large part by the Saudi royal family in an effort to keep them at bay within Saudi Arabia by diverting their attention to other “enemies.” ISIS is best known for its particular blend of ferocity, violence and cruelty – including torture and dismemberment. Like al-Qaida and the Taliban it imposes strict Sharia law to the detriment of women, homosexuals and other “heathens.”
As a result, Iran does not need either encouragement or cooperation from the United States to engage with Mr. Al-Maliki’s government to combat the ISIS forces. They will be – they are – already in the middle of this conflict. To do otherwise is to risk the suppression of the Shia tradition and the dominance of the Sunnis.
But the Iranians, having bested Mr. Obama at every turn over the last five and one-half years, still have cards to play. They can demand the additional lifting of economic sanctions and further delays or limitations on inspections while they continue their development of nuclear weapons. The demands will come in exchange for doing what they are already doing and going to do, which is combat the Sunni forces of ISIS. History has demonstrated that Mr. Obama, as gullible as ever, is likely to accede to these demands and thus jeopardize the security interests of America, Israel and other allies in the region as Iran becomes a nuclear power.
What Mr. Obama should do is recognize that his actions have already lost Iraq and that the Iraqi people are going to suffer even more and that the only viable option is to ensure that the conflagration does not grow to engulf others with whom we have had historical ties and alliances. To that end, Mr. Obama should work quickly, in cooperation with the governments of Turkey, Jordan, Israel, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia, to strengthen defenses of each of those countries, to mitigate against the opportunity for the spread of what is becoming a regional conflict. And he should re-impose the economic sanctions on Iran which will have even greater effect now that Iran must divert its attention in order engage in self-protection against the Sunni insurgents.
But Mr. Obama won’t. He will make a bad situation worse. It is the price you pay for making the mailroom clerk the chief executive officer with no intervening training or experience. It worked well for actor Tom Hanks in a Hollywood movie, but not so well in the real world of rough and tumble.
An honorable man would resign but then we would be left with the one person who may be even worse – Vice President Joe Biden.